Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The extent of my desperation

I know I haven't been a very prolific poster lately, and I apologize. But honestly, life is just too depressing. There is barely anything on television (can the producers PLEASE give the writers what they want already?!). And when there is barely anything on television, my life becomes very, very sad.

How sad? Over the past few weeks, I have done the following.

1.) Begun watching Celebrity Apprentice. Yes, I know I said I was giving up the Apprentice. Mainly because it's dumb and not at all entertaining anymore. And yet, I have DVRed every episode this season, and will continue to do so. Is the show any good? No.

2.) I am watching Cashmere Mafia. At the beginning of the fall television season I told myself I had no desire to watch this show. (I was, however, planning on giving Lipstick Jungle a chance, mainly because Lindsay Price stars in it, and I like to support 90210 alums as much as possible.) Then it premiered and got pretty horrible reviews. And yet I was sad because I had forgotten to DVR the first episode, meaning there was a valuable hour of original television I would never get back. And now I have a season pass.

3.) For some reason, my DVR thinks that I have an interest in watching a show called October Road. I don't have a TiVo, just a DVR. And unlike TiVos, DVRs don't think. They don't choose shows for you based on your other preferences. But yet my DVR thinks I am going to like October Road and records all new episodes for me. Last year, when this happened, I watched an episode and determined that it was so awful I couldn't bear to watch more than ten minutes and would never again view the show. Unfortunately, my DVR continues to record it. Well, perhaps I actually meant fortunately. Because now that October Road has new episodes, I haven't been deleting them. I save them on my DVR, thinking that if I ever get so incredibly desperate, if I ever run out of new episodes of Celebrity Apprentice and Cashmere Mafia, I will still have new episodes October Road.

4.) Remember when I posted about Big Shots and asked whether it could be the "worst new fall show?" And then I gave it a "big thumbs down," proclaiming "so very bad," stating "the dialogue is awful," and declaring "no amount of eye candy is going to save this one?" I recorded the last two episodes. I watched them last night. I'm not sure if there are any more in the can but, if so, I'll be watching those as well. Oh, and my initial assessment of the show? Pretty spot-on.

As for tonight? I think there is a new episode of Carpoolers. (Remember, this is the show I compared, unfavorably, to Cavemen. Would that there were a new episode of Cavemen tonight.) Actually, it might be a rerun, but, to borrow NBC's discarded slogan, it's new to me. And at this point, that's all that really matters.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Village Voice Top 15 Albums of 2007

1 LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver

I just looked at my iPod and realized that I actually own this, although I have no memory of ever listening to it or even buying it. Note to self: listen to this album; it's the best album of the year!

I own and really like their previous album, but the songs don't actually have words, which I think is required of a top album. There's one song, called "Yeah," that just goes "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah," etc. I do like "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" and "Your City's a Sucker" from the old album.

2 Radiohead, In Rainbows

This might be heresy, but do I really need another Radiohead album, even if I can legally download it for free? Answer: no.

3 M.I.A., Kala

Own this; love it. It's hip hop that appeals to white people, and I am white after all.

4 Amy Winehouse, Back To Black

Should I buy this?

5 Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

It would have been almost impossible for them to top Funeral, which was such a great album, and they did not, in fact, top it.

6 Kanye West, Graduation

Loved The College Dropout; was bored by Late Registration; have no interest in this album.

7 Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Love it.

8 Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand

Seriously? I saw that this got good reviews when it came out, but it seems like such a baby boomer nostalgia project. Anyone heard it?

9 Bruce Springsteen, Magic

No interest.

10 The National, Boxer

Love it. I know that some people (reader M., for example) really hate Matthew Berninger's voice, but "Slow Show" is one my favorite songs of the year.

11 Feist, The Reminder

Love it. But she is bordering on overexposure, what with all the iPod commercials.

12 Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Wilco is one of those bands that I feel like I should like a lot more than I do.

13 Panda Bear, Person Pitch

Never heard of this band or this album. I do like panda bears though.

14 The White Stripes, Icky Thump

Own it. Like it. I have a huge crush on Jack White.

15 Miranda Lambert, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Own it. Like it.

Of the rest of the top 40, I highly recommend Jens Lenkman at #23 and Okkervil River at #31; and I'm considering buying the Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings (#20) and Iron & Wine (#38).

So, what were your favorite albums of 2007?

He could be MY neighbor, I wouldn't object

It seems like every interview George Clooney does makes me love him just a little bit more. Like this one in Us wherein he describes the night he found out that Britney Spears lived next door. It's worth a read. Trust me.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Thank You, Football Gods

We saw this weekend two instances in which the football gods rewarded/punished those who deserved it.

First, in a situation that has already gotten much attention, the Giants have been amply rewarded for pushing the Patriots to the limit in the final game of the regular season. The game meant nothing to the Giants, but because the Pats were going for 16-0, the Giants played their starters and lost in a great game. Since then, the Giants have gone to Tampa and won and yesterday, in an extremely sweet victory, beat the Cowboys in Dallas. The result--TO sobbing and much joy in the Bartender household. While I am quite concerned about the Giants going to Lambeau on Sunday, just making the NFC Title Game this year is quite an achievement. Playing with house money.

Second, I am thrilled to see the Colts receive their comeuppance for what I saw as a disgusting display in the final game of the regular season. The Colts were trailing the Titans 16-10 in the final minutes of the game. It meant nothing to the Colts, but the Titans had to win to make the playoffs. The Colts pulled their starters early in the game, which is perfectly acceptable, but with Tennessee in position late and taking a knee, the Colts had a time out left but did not use it; they simply let the clock run out. If they took the time out, they would have had a final chance (about 30 seconds) to try to win the game. Likely, no. But they didn't even try. I was disgusted at the time (and I really didn't care if Tennessee or Cleveland got the final AFC playoff spot), and I like to think that their actions were justly rewarded yesterday with a stunning defeat against San Diego.

So my predictions (big grain of salt): Pats big over the Bolts (yes, I've heard all about how improved the Chargers are since week 2, but they are beat up and can't keep up with New England's offense; the Jags tried and failed.) Packers in a close one over the G-men. And I will make the amazingly bold call of the Pats winning Super Bowl XLII. (The Roman numeral thing is really getting clunky at this point.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy birthday!

Final four in the Amazing Race, which means the season is almost over. I feel like this season has gone by really quickly. And I loved this episode.

Why? Spoilers ahead! It seemed really fast-paced and most of the teams ran really good legs. There was a little bunching, but not a ton, so if you raced well you could control your own destiny. As for my more specific thoughts:

Ron and Christina ran a great leg. I haven't loved Ron because of the way he treats Christina, but I give him a lot of credit for recognizing his weaknesses and actually trying to improve himself. It was so nice when he said that Christina has helped him to become a better person. And he's right! I have watched this show since season one and I have never seen a contestant grow and change the way Ron has. One gripe--at one point during the race Christina said she and Ron were going to "play mum," and Ron repeated her. Christina is smart and well-educated, so I wonder whether I am wrong here, but "play mum" is not a phrase people use, right? I thought it was "keep mum." But "play mum?" I don't think so.

Ron and Christina's knowledge of Chinese was a nice plus in this leg. Gobo didn't think it was fair that they could actually read the clue at the bottom of the tea cup while the other teams couldn't, but I say that's part of what they bring to the race. Some teams are fast, some are strong, and they happen to be able to read and speak the language one of the clues is written in. Gobo thought it was one thing for them to be able to navigate the country better because of their language skills, but another that the actual clue was written in a language only they understood. Obviously, I don't agree. (Gobo also thought that Ron would have no problems running over the rocks at the detour because he assumed that his feet were "old" and therefore rough and calloused. He was right about that!)

Nick and Don seem just as surprised as everyone else that they are still in this race. I am not big fans of them, but I wouldn't be sad if they win it all for two reasons: they got those tattoos (I would have gone back and completed the leg rather than doing that, surely coming in last), and I'm impressed that Nick has been able to carry Don's bag so much. Gobo pointed out that Nick and Don appear to have packed very lightly, and he's right, but it's still impressive.

TK and Rachel remain my favorite team, and I was happy when I realized that the bunching at the beginning of the leg would help them. But I also liked that the bunching didn't get them all the way there, and they still needed to run a good leg to catch up. (Was I the only one confused about why the teams were sneaking around to try to beat each other to the elevator after waiting for the site to open for two and a half hours? It didn't make sense that they wouldn't all be lined up.) It was obvious at the beginning of the leg that Rachel had completely lost confidence in herself after the previous leg, with her constant concern that they were going the wrong way. But once they caught up to everyone else, you could almost see the confidence come back. It was unclear whether they ended up on the same flight as Nate and Jen and Nick and Don, or if they were on the one that left 15 minutes later, but I suspect it was the former and the show didn't tell us to build the suspense. I loved that they ended up ahead of Jen and Nate in the customs line because Jen and Nate decided to change their money, but it did make me wonder when teams do things like change money. You never see that happen, but it must at some point.

It seems the other racers really have issues with TK's hair, between Jen wanting to pull his dreds out and Nick wanting to shave his beard off. If I were TK, I would sleep very lightly. TK and Rachel obviously ran a really good leg, and I continue to like the addition of the speedbump to the race. It really could make the difference between winning and losing, but it is also surmountable. I was surprised at Rachel's reluctance to drink the hot tea, complaining that it would burn her mouth and she wouldn't be able to taste anything. At this point in the race, would you possibly care about that? Not that it mattered, as they managed what I thought was an impressive second place finish.

And that brings us to Jen and Nate. At the beginning of the episode Jen said they had to race hard and it wouldn't be "nice" Jen and Nate. Were they ever nice Jen and Nate? I must have missed those episodes. There were some classic Nate and Jen moments in this episode. I have trouble believing that Nate thought Thailand and Taiwan are the same place, but it does appear that way (saying he doesn't know much about Taiwan, except that he likes Thai food and has a Thai friend). And then there was Jen's anger at TK and Rachel for catching up. I can understand being frustrated, but she really seemed to take it as a personal affront that TK and Rachel were trying to catch up. That's kind of what the race is about.

What I found most shocking was their choice to take a subway and bus instead of a cab. No matter how congested streets are, taking a subway and then having to switch to a bus is rarely the right choice, and I was really surprised that they went that route. I was even more surprised when they got to the street and couldn't decide whether they should take a cab or a bus. How is a bus EVER faster than a cab? Both vehicles drive, but the bus has the make stops and the cab doesn't. It appeared that there was a designated bus lane, so that could speed things up, but still--the bus makes stops. Unless they were told that the bus' next stop was theirs and that the bus would drop them off as close to their destination as a cab would, why would you possibly choose the bus? The best part, of course, was the fight they had over this "difficult" decision, with Jen telling Nate that he was the "man," and apparently this meant he should be making the decision. Way to fall back on gender stereotypes when it suits you, Jen! I loved the looks on the faces of the bystanders watching them as they fought. They seemed stunned. Classic.

Of course, the end result was Jen and Nate's elimination. Happy birthday, Jen!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here

Like the rest of the world (slight exaggeration), I was shocked by the results in NH on Tuesday night (at least on the Democratic side). And like many others, I too am trying to figure out what the heck happened. Before anyone else on TV mentioned it, I had thrown out the idea of the Bradley Effect and still think that it played some role in what occurred. (Mrs. Bartender was very impressed after I did a short discourse on the subject to hear someone on TV make the same point.) Regardless, for better or worse, the Democrats have a two person fight for the nomination. (I have never been a fan of John Edwards, but if he doesn't quit after what is almost certain to be a 3d place finish in SC (a state he won in 2004), I give up.) Btw, I have not made an endorsement (phone lines are open), but will do so before the Beltway Primary (DC, VA, and MD) on 2/12.

For the Democrats, the run up to Super Tuesday (2/5) sees a primary in Michigan next Tuesday, caucuses in Nevada next Saturday, a primary in SC on 1/26, and a primary in Florida on 1/29. However, the Michigan and Florida primaries are bizarre; because they are occurring before Super Tuesday, the DNC has stripped the states of their delegates and only Clinton (and Kucinich) are on the MI ballot, and none of the candidates are campaigning in Florida. Thus, the real races are in NV and SC. Obama should certainly win the latter, and he is favored, I would think, in the former particularly after he was endorsed by the Culinary Workers Union. If he wins both, he is in very good position for Super Tuesday, but, as we saw in NH, never count a Clinton out. I just hope that the battle for the nomination does not create either racial or gender polarization. Both candidates have significant strengths although a sense seems to exist that Obama would be stronger in the fall (if for no other reason that he won't drive the GOP crazies/Clinton haters out in droves) although one could argue to the contrary.

The GOP side is even more muddled although I still think McCain will ultimately prevail. Thompson, who I hear did very well in last night's GOP debate, has wisely said he will drop out if he doesn't win in SC. (Note, to make it more confusing the GOP's SC primary is 1/19, a week before the Democrats.) And if Romney loses (once again) in MI, his native state, any remaining hope he had likely vanishes. Similarly, if Giuliani fails to win in FL (and he is losing support there), he too is finished. That leaves Huckabee (and running mate Colbert) and McCain, and if it is clear by Super Tuesday that that is the choice, McCain will be very strong outside of the Bible Belt. Huckabee's support is neglible outside of the religious right (6% in NH), and as much as McCain ticks of a lot of Republicans, the GOP (1) tends to go with the person who has waited in line for the nomination (Bush in '88, Dole in '96) and (2) they realize that nominating Huckabee would give the Democrats their biggest electoral victory since 1964.

Of course, after what happened on Tuesday, don't believe a word of this.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stop The Presses, Please

While I do not read Parade, I do receive it as part of my Washington Post subscription. So when I read the Post this past Sunday, I was greeted by the above cover. In case you are unsure, yes, that is Benazir Bhutto. And it seems that Parade is unaware that Bhutto was assassinated more than 10 days before this magazine came out. Considering that magazines are able to include stories about events that occurred 36 hours before they hit the newsstand (for example, the new Sports Illustrated, which came out yesterday morning, has LSU's victory on Monday night on the cover), one would think that something could have been done here. I took a quick look and saw no acknowledgement that events had superseded the article. Maybe there was something that I missed, but the cover makes apparent that Bhutto is profiled as a bulwark against terrorism. I hope there is another one.

Update: The Post's ombudsman discussed this issue today here.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Whither Al

While certain other matters distract me from time to time these days--the Giants win yesterday, Goose Gossage's impending election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, work--politics certainly has taken center stage. My initial reaction to Obama's win has only been reinforced by what occurred over the weekend. He is going to win NH by a substantial margin (10+ points, I would guess), and he now has a huge lead in SC (18 points) with the African-American vote unsurprisingly moving completely in his favor. Again, I see no effective strategy for Hillary at this point, and while much of the focus is on what she did wrong, I am not sure that there is a lot that she could have done. In many ways, she got caught by a tsunami. For better or worse, Hillary Clinton in 2007/08 is a very well known commodity that people have an opinion of. Obama represents change (a word I am so sick of hearing) by his mere novelty on the political scene. With the mood of the electorate and Obama's manifest talents and with Hillary's baggage of the past 16 or so years, I don't know what she could have done differently. Even skipping Iowa would have been very dicey as the supposed inevitable candidate, and Obama, if he beat Edwards handily, would still have had Big Mo at this point. Right now Obama is playing the role of RFK, and Hillary is Hubert Humphrey, a fine man who in 1968 was simply saddled with the baggage of LBJ. (Of course, if Hillary somehow wins or narrowly loses tomorrow and then comes back, forget I wrote this.)

One thing on my mind of late is what does Al Gore do. It is well known that there is little love lost between Al and Hillary. In 2004, Gore endorsed Dean in December 2003, and we all know how well Dean did after that. Here, however, the risk is greater. If one attempts to kill the king (or more aptly the Queen), one must kill the king; so for maximum advantage for him and Obama, he needs to endorse Obama (assuming that is what he wants to do) when (1) he feels that it will help and (2) he is confident enough that Hillary won't win the nomination. Probably the best time to do that would be after a NH win, but we will see.

I still wonder whether Gore wants back in the political game. On some level, I'm sure he does (as one understandably would if they felt they were robbed of the presidency) although he also must love operating above it. Would Gore want to be VP again under Obama? Two men have served as VP under two different Presidents (George Clinton under Jefferson and Madison and John C. Calhoun under Quincy Adams and Jackson), but that hasn't happened in 175 years. I'm sure being VP doesn't truly excite him, but he would add the experience (agh!) to the ticket that Obama will need including a wide range of foreign policy knowledge. (I also hear he knows something about global warming.) And as well known as Gore is, no one would outshine Obama. This would put Gore right back in play for the presidential nomination in 2016 (assuming Obama wins this year and is renominated). He would only be 68 (younger than Reagan in 1980 (69) and McCain today (71)). Of course, this too might sound crazy, but what the heck.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Morning After

Okay, it's the morning after Iowa, so even though Britney continues her descent into madness, my mind is on politics. Certainly an interesting evening, but before turning to what we learned (and didn't learn), I have to reiterate the stupidity of this system.

There are legitimate arguments that a state such as Iowa (and NH) should have first crack at the candidates. Despite the lack of diversity, the argument goes, these states pride themselves in retail politics where the candidates must speak to the voters and things other than money matter. (Exhibit A: Mitt Romney.)

These arguments have some appeal (although I would completely gut the system), but to have caucuses and not a primary is inane, and the Democratic version is far worse and to actually watch it reveals what a mockery it is. The system limits turnout even further by precluding many from participating (i.e., those who cannot be present at their caucus at 7pm last night), creates a strange result with the lobbying going on throughout the process and distributing the votes of nonviable candidates, and because the democratic "vote" is based not on votes but on local delegates, a candidate with the most support can lose, e..g, possibly Paul Simon (the senator, not the singer) in 1988. I stress that I am not saying a different candidate would have won last night with a different system, but this is inane.

As for the results:

1. On the GOP side, I have been saying for more than 6 months that McCain, despite going broke, had a good shot at the nomination. There is even a post of mine from months ago that I'm too lazy to find saying just that. A large part of my argument was based upon his opponents, all of whom have major, major flaws. With Romney losing last night, he is in deep, deep trouble, and if he loses NH (which I think he will), he is toast. His whole strategy was to win both, and he spent a fortune trying to do so. At least he didn't go bald.

As for the Huck, he is amusing, but I don't think the GOP is insane enough to nominate him. Remember, Pat Robertson came in second in Iowa in 1988; Huckabee is just slightly more sane (albeit much funnier). And when it comes down to a more mainstream opponent to Huckabee, McCain is perfectly positioned for the role. Guiliani thinks he is, but his decision to forgo Iowa and NH and his continuing scandals plus his view on social issues make it highly unlikely he can all of sudden get things started in Florida.

2. On the Democratic side, a great job by Obama. I was skeptical, but in the end, he was able to get a massive turnout among the young and new voters, something that other candidates have tried to do and failed. He is now the clear front runner heading into NH and SC with huge momentum. Clinton (and only Clinton) could stop him, but it is going to be very tough. Because of (1) Obama's ability to stay positive, (2) concerns about her, (3) the presses love for him and not for her (cf. McCain and Romney) (I thought Chris Matthews was going to orgasm when MSNBC called Iowa for Obama.), and (4) Obama's race and the increasing role (after NH) of the African-American vote, she can't really attack him without it backfiring. I would never count out a Clinton, but Hillary ain't her husband, and at this point I think Obama is in great shape.

So, the big winners: Obama, Huckabee, McCain, and Ron Paul (10% and he crushed Rudy in Iowa)

The classy losers: Biden and Dodd. They had their chance; they saw the future; they can leave looking proud.

The losers: Edwards (he moved to Iowa in 2005 and had to win it to remain viable; he didn't and he didn't even bother to congratulate Obama in his concession speech); Richardson (2% ain't going to cut it); Thompson (he tied McCain in IA who really didn't campaign there; please come back to Law & Order so Jack McCoy can return to the courtroom); Guiliani (campaigning or no campaigning, 6th place is lame).

The big losers: Romney and Hillary. (To be fair to Hillary, IA was always a tough state for her; her problem was that as she began to look inevitable, it made is very difficult to forgo the state; now that she has lost, she has to regret not doing so.)

At least until next Tuesday.

Now I Just Feel Sad (And a Little Dirty)

Britney Spears has been hospitalized following a custody dispute. People says that she was brought to the hospital after police, at her home in reponse to her refusal to relinquish her children to Kevin Federline's bodyguard at the court ordered time, determined she was "under the influence of an unknown substance." According to US (yes, I read both sites every morning, if you're reading this, don't judge (although I'm totally judging myself for even writing this) she's been designated a "special needs patient" meaning she either overdosed or they believe she is suicidal. Despite the tag I put on this post, I'm really not feeling schadenfreude. I'm just feeling sad.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Law & Order

I'm pretty happy to have classic Law & Order back on the air. I mean, it's nice to have any new TV to watch these days, but Law & Order is an old stand-by. (Plus, it now has Jeremy Sisto!) It's so formulaic that it's sort of fun to play spot the issue. Like, in last night's second episode, you sort of knew as soon as they mentioned that the husband/father of the kidnap victims was a hedge fund manager that that would be relevant later on.

But the first episode was absurd. It had to do with an assisted suicide scheme, in which terminally ill people commit suicide using the protocol that is used in this country for lethal injections. Now, it just so happens that I have a professional interest in lethal injection protocols, but my immediate reaction was that this was a ridiculous premise.

First, because it is just way too hard for the average person to commit suicide this way. I have no experience with trying to stockpile restricted drugs, but I think it would be much, much easier for the average person to get access to barbiturates than for them to get drugs like pancuronium bromide (a drug that paralyzes people) that are normally used only by anesthesiologists in hospital settings and have to be administered by IV. Why go to all that trouble?

Second, the protocol is not really conducive to suicide. The drugs have to be administered by IV. And they have to be administered in a certain order -- the first drug knocks you out, the second drug paralyzes you, and the third drug stops your heart. How exactly is an unconscious person supposed to administer two more drugs to themselves? That was sort of glossed over.

Third, committing suicide this way would just be an insane thing to do. The second drug serves no purpose except to prevent the executed person from exhibiting signs of pain that would be unsettling to witnesses. Also, it creates a risk that you will be awake, experiencing pain, and unable to express it when the third, extremely painful chemical is administered. That's why it is illegal in many states to use that drug when euthanizing animals. There is just no way that anyone who was trying to minimize their own suffering would use this drug to kill themselves. Same goes for the third drug, potassium chloride. It is caustic, and it is known to be extremely painful when administered intravenously at high enough doses to stop the heart.

Isn't this a fun post? Anyway, my point is that it seemed like they were really stretching to get current events into the episode.


Hi, I'm back, and I will now treat you to some random thoughts. I had occasion recently to see Chris Berman on some football-related ESPN show. My ESPN viewing is usually limited to PTI, so I'm not exposed to his "antics" too often, but holy hell that guy is annoying. I mean "He ... Could ... Go ... All ... The ... Way" was mildly amusing the first one or times I heard it, but the next million or so, not so much. But now he seems to have replaced that with some noise that, in addition to being repetitive and unfunny, is actually sort of painful to listen to. Please stop!

It reminded me of "Idiocracy" -- a really funny movie, which for some reason was released only on DVD -- in which Luke Wilson is put into hibernation and wakes up 500 years later, to find that he is the smartest person on earth. My point is that only by the standards of a seriously debased culture is Chris Berman's schtick even remotely amusing.

Note: no post on Chris Berman could be complete without a link to this classic Deadspin post.